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Podcast Episode 03 Transcription

Announcer : Welcome to Endurance and Nutrition with Dave Scott, where we cover topics such as nutritional considerations for training, competition, and recovery to help you achieve increased endurance and reach your optimal performance. Dave is a six-time winner of the Ironman Triathlon World Championship and one of the world's most prominent authorities on endurance athlete training and competition. And now, here's Dave Scott.

Dave Scott: Hi, I'm Dave Scott and I've been involved in endurance athletics for over 30 years as a competitor, a coach, and now as a consultant. We're doing a series of podcasts on and welcome today. Today our guest, for the second time, I had Simon Lessing five time IT world champion join us on the first one and we had a lively discussion. Simon, welcome back.

Simon Lessing: Thank you again. Yes, back again.

Dave Scott: Well, last week I had Davis Phinney on and we talked about the two days prior to your big training day or race competition. Today, we'd like to address the topic that you're well versed in Simon, in fact you just got back from the 70.3 Ironman race in Clearwater, race day, not only nutrition but the mental aspects of it and also just training. And since it's clear in your mind, I'm going to just start right off with a question and I'd like to sort of forward this to you. You've raced in all different kinds of conditions I think being from the U.K. you've raced over there in terrible conditions at times, 50 degrees, rainy, freezing cold; you were down in Cancun for a half Ironman series, part of the 70.3, in September and it was about 105 degrees on race day. Everyone seemingly wilted and you did very, very well. Just as far as warming up before your competition, what do you do under those conditions? It's a cold day, it's a hot day, does it really matter?

Simon Lessing: Well, I think it definitely does matter. I mean obviously, you know, if you're in a situation where it's a really cold environment- generally speaking, you know, you never warm up and start straight away. So you're always going to be sitting around waiting for the start, waiting for your- either your wave, your pro wave, age group wave to go. So, you know, under cold conditions I generally don't like to get in the water before a race. I'd rather go for maybe a 5, 10-minute jog, maybe do a few strides, just to get the core body temperature up ready to go. I mean it's generally speaking pretty hard. We start our races early in the morning and I know for myself I never really swim in the morning so it is important to try and get some sort of warm-up in. Now, obviously that- you know, if you're going to stand around in the cold, it's not ideal preparation for getting in the water and starting to swim really hard. So I try and stay out of the water. I have actually, in the past, done elastic stretch cords and that has seemed to work really, really well and it gives you a good feel of what you're doing. You know, I think the biggest mistake with a lot of endurance athletes specifically, you know, triathlon, half Ironman, I-Man athletes, you see them running up and down and doing long lengthy warm-ups when they really do have a four hour or eight hour or, you know, 15 hour day ahead of them. I generally nowadays try and just do a swim warm-up. I won't worry about- I'll do a bit of stretching at the hotel, you know, prior to going to the race site.

Dave Scott: That must be the only stretching that you do all year then.

Simon Lessing: That is, that is. That's basically it, a couple of times a year. But, you know, I mean I think half of that is nerves that- you know, that forces me to do something at least anyway. But I like to have a good warm-up and my theory behind- a good swim warm-up so I'll get in the water, stretch up and down and spend a good 10-minutes, you know, just getting the feel of the water. And, you know, as I say it's early morning, it's a little bit hard at times to get psyched up and ready to go for that. You know, my philosophy really is that, you know, the swim is a good warm-up for the bike and the bike's a good warm-up for the run. And, you know, even in Clearwater I was walking down to the start at 5:30 in the morning and I saw, you know, a bunch of people running, you know, up and down the road warming up, and I just thought well hey, you guys should rather be conserving your energy.

Dave Scott: Well, one of the things, I mean, is just about compromising, compromising the fact that you are going to have a longer, harder day but I think everyone needs to recognize that your warm-up rate is different. So you can take two different people and someone can seemingly hit their top speed or their race speed in 5 to 8 minutes. But the advantage of warming up is that you lubricate the joints, you get the muscles warmed up and, you know, enhance that blood flow. You also release a little bit of water, which seems to help you perform better. And if you have a higher intensity activity you actually produce less lactic acid if you warm-up beforehand. And I've been to a lot of races where I've just stood on the side and watched people and they haven't done a stitch of exercise, they've got their arms crossed, and the wind's whipping across the lake or they're getting ready to do a bike ride and they start out at this breakout speed and it- you know, it's suicide. They're bound to feel stiff. So, you have to warm up. One of the things just nutritionally that can be done just prior to your race or your big day is not to sip the fluid replacement drinks continually for, you know, an hour and a half to two hours before the event. Assuming that you're going to eat two to two and a half hours your breakfast before that event and right before the event if you're just taking your fluid replacement drink anywhere between about 4 to 17 ounces of fluid, depending on the conditions and your body size, you're going to utilize that water and the sugar and also the sodium, primarily the sodium, in the fluid replacement drinks. The sodium helps retain the water in the cell and if you do that that'll allow you to utilize that fluid, the sodium. And hopefully if you're consuming a drink that has carbohydrate and protein, similar to Accelerade that has a 4:1 ratio, you can reap the benefits of the protein which will limit some of the muscle glycogen depletion, also limit some of the muscle breakdown that you have. Simon, just another question that I think a lot of times we take for granted is that every time you go into a big event you're going to be ready. But part of the preparation is the mental preparation and is there anything that you do from the time that you get up in the morning to the race start, let's say within that two hours before the race start, mentally that you prepare for the race or you just say, I'm going to roll some dice, here I go.

Simon Lessing: Well, I think, you know, a lot of what you do really- and I know ironically, you know, even though I've been involved in this sport for a long, long time I still get really nervous before a race. And, you know, you would think by now I would be kind of, you know, fairly relaxed going into a race and feeling fairly confident. You know, racing there's always the uncertainty and, you know, it's very seldomly that everything goes according to plan. So, you know, I get nervous and I really- in terms of my mental approach I try and do things just to really try and make myself feel a little bit more relaxed and not stress out too much because nervous energy's just a complete waste.

Dave Scott: Yes, it's catastrophic.

Simon Lessing: It is catastrophic and, you know, you can make so many mistakes, you can feel actually completely worn out by the time you even get to the start line, having a sleepless night or, you know… So I just try and- you know, try and reassure myself, you know, that I've done the training. And I kind of try and think strategically through my race and obviously nutrition as well. And, you know, there's so many aspects that can go wrong in a multi-sport event like a triathlon, you know, from losing your goggles to losing a gel flask, which is what happened to me this last weekend in Clearwater, that, you know, if you can just try and think and plan step by step, it just makes things a little bit easier.

Dave Scott: One of the things- just at the very end you said plan, if you go into a big training day where you know the pressure's on, or a race, if you have a plan and part of that plan is hopefully knowing the course and being able to at least break that course down into pieces, because all of a sudden when you start breaking down 56 miles or a 100-mile bike or a marathon and you chop it up into pieces and you have a visual imprint of that, mentally it allows you to relax. If you can do it in segments a lot of times your body says okay, I've got through that first phase, now what do I have to look at that second phase. So when the gun goes off, what would you tell your listeners to think about in that first minute of competition, the very first minute?

Simon Lessing: I think- you know, I think really what you have to do is concentrate on the now and what's happening around you at that minute -- literally within that minute. And if it's obviously a swim start, making sure that you get, you know, clear water, making sure you're starting in the right place, the right side of the beach, that you don't get stepped on, stamped on. And, you know, the way I race usually is literally just taking myself step by step through it. And, you know, it's literally impossible to try and take yourself from start to finish all at once, you know, from your mental approach that is. So, you know, I really just try and focus on things that are happening. I mean a great example is, for example, the last couple hundred yards coming out of the water I'll be thinking about my transition area. So when I hit the beach I already know exactly what I'm going to do from, you know, taking my swim cap off, placing my goggles wherever they need to be, putting my helmet on, putting my glasses on, taking my bike and getting on. Now, that's only, you know, a two-minute period but you can screw it up big time and you know, by- even by forgetting something. So, you know, I'll always just try and think, you know, at that time what I need to do, and where that's going to take me a minute, two, three, four minutes, five minutes down the line.

Dave Scott: I've watched a lot of races. In fact, I had an opportunity to watch the Silverman Iron distance race this past weekend and there was a world-class athlete that was doing the third leg of the relay. A brilliant Kenyan runner; has run 1:01 for a half marathon, which is around a 4:50 pace. I mean just spectacular, 20 years old. And I watched him blast out starting the marathon run after Tyler Hamilton came in after the bike leg, and he went out in that first mile in a 4:20 mile. Now that's a suicide pace and he found out actually in 20 miles, I mean, he totally shut down. And I've also seen, you know, of course hundreds of triathlons and I've seen a lot of the amateurs when they start out in the race where they have their head down in the swim, and they're swimming their first 35 or 40 yards and all of a sudden they take a breath. One of the things that I always tell people is just think about your breathing. You know, if you just think about taking slow methodical breaths. Taking a deep inhale allows you to relax a little bit and as you said, just kind of focus right on the now, focus right on that moment and don't look ahead, because you go through bad patches inevitably. You don't want in the first 50 to 100 yards. Just jumping ahead just little bit about calories during your race. If you go the website,, we've put up several different charts and one of them will show you a breakdown of the amount of calories that you have available before you start to exercise. And I think we fail to recognize how many calories we have in our tank from blood sugar to muscle glycogen, liver glycogen, protein stores and free fatty acids. Just free fatty acids alone for 150 pound person you have about 40,000 available calories. We have a lot of calories. I'll go back to this Kenyan runner. I asked him after he bonked at 20 miles and really staggered in the last six miles, what he had consumed in the morning before the race, and he was running the marathon at around 12 noon, because the swimmer and cyclist had finished their legs, and he said, "One banana." "What did you consume during the first 20 miles of the race?" "Nothing." He didn't touch any water, didn't have any fluid replacement drink. And obviously doing that I mean he learned a really critical lesson, had three IVs, you know, three liters of fluid, you know, 100- 105 ounces of fluid. One of the charts that we included in the- on the website is to look at how many calories you should have actually before the race. So when you wake up in the morning a lot of you will have GI distress. In other words, if you're nervous about the race, which you said you are always, that you can only eat a certain amount of calories. And I've kind of defined the range that you should take in based on your body weight. So if you take a look at that that'll probably help you. But Simon, when you start to race, when do you first introduce calories into your race? When do you start introducing calories? And you mentioned your water bottle full of fluid replacement drink and your gel flask bounced off over some rough terrain, so obviously you're out there kind of like that Kenyan, what do I eat now.

Simon Lessing: I mean it's been a bit of a learning process for myself Dave. You know, when I first moved up from Olympic distance to half Ironman and Ironman distance nutrition was a new thing for me. And I generally found that I was definitely eating too much too soon. And, you know, you have a tendency to think, well I've done the swim, I've swum pretty hard and you get on the bike and instead of settling down and just riding for 45 minutes to 50 minutes, you know, I found- initially I found that I was, you know, even after 10, 15 minutes I was starting to think about eating, eating, eating because I was concerned that well, this is a very long event and how am I going to get through it if I don't eat. So, it definitely has been a learning process and nowadays what I do is I pretty much don't touch any food whatsoever and- for at least the first 45, 50 minutes of a race. And in that time period I'll definitely take a couple of sips of my fluid replacement drink, which obviously contains, you know, calories as well. So I definitely found that holding back a little bit initially and just settling down into the first hour and a half into my race helps a lot with regards to digestion and not eating too much too soon.

Dave Scott: I'm glad we agree on that because we've talked about this a lot. And probably half of the e-ails that I get here at my office just on nutrition related questions come back to a race performance where the individuals have said I had stomach distress. And you can generally get away with having a few more calories if you're in a bike race because you're not working with gravity. But as soon as you get off and if it's a running race you need to be careful about putting in an excessive amount of calories. We all have kind of a drip system where we have to maintain that blood sugar that drips into our system. And one of the things that if you're looking at a fueling plan, and everyone should have a fueling plan, how many calories you're going to be taking in an hour, look at that first hour of exercise, because we have that big bank of calories typically that first hour is anywhere between 20 to 50% less than each hour after that. You've got to take in fewer calories. Something that you said, you know, don't eat too much too soon. And I know in longer races and certainly looking at Iron distance races, you see people get out and swim and all of a sudden they've got this concoction in the swim to bike transition and they suck down 1400 calories and they wonder why their stomach was in trouble. Do you have any idea Simon, and obviously you mentioned the Ironman in Clearwater, the half…

Simon Lessing: Yes, I mean had some problem in Clearwater. I lost both my gel flask and one of my bottles with Accelerade in. And, you know, I've trained with Accelerade the whole year and I've done pretty well off it and I'm very confident with the combination. So, you know, all of a sudden at an early stage on in the bike, I had pretty much lost practically three quarters of the calories that I intended to take on the bike, and obviously my fluid replacement drink. So, you know, I was unfortunately in a situation where I had no option because I couldn't stop, I couldn't slow down and pick it up because that meant really I was sort of isolating myself. So I had a problem really trying to get liquid and calories at the aid stations. We were going by so fast and I don't think- because we were the first group I think people weren't quite prepared for us to come along at that speed.

Dave Scott: Those aid people are always sort of mystified and stupefied when the leaders come by and they're ready to throw you a water bottle

Simon Lessing: That's right, standing and looking at the scenery when you're coming by at 25 miles an hour is not really the ideal scenario for getting a water bottle. But, you know, the bottom line is I didn't obviously have enough to drink and I definitely didn't have enough calories, so unfortunately I went into the run knowing that I was under-caloried and I tried to make it up early on in the run but when you're racing at that intensity, it's almost impossible to try and play catch-up in terms of trying to catch-up with regards to taking on fluid and taking in the calories specifically.

Dave Scott: One of the things, just about having this plan that you talked about- and you can't catch-up and actually you weren't riding as slow as 25 miles an hour, you guys were going 27 to 28 miles an hour on average, it was you know, very, very quick and you're expending a lot of calories. Again, we've included several charts on the website, you can take a look at those to figure out your total calorie burn. But just a reminder from the first podcast when we talked about this: you don't replace a calorie for a calorie. So if you expand, and in your example you're expending about almost 1400 calories an hour at your cycling speed, you replace roughly 25% to 33% of those total calories burned, that generally allows that drip system to fuel yourself at a adequate rate. If you take in too much, then a lot of times the water's drawn to your GI tract and you can't break it down. If you take in too little in your case and which you couldn't control, and then all of a sudden you're under-caloried and you're sort of playing catch-up and at a high rate of exercise it was difficult- you know, to play catch-up. Just getting back to this Kenyan runner that I witnessed over the weekend, when he…

Simon Lessing: You seem to be inspired by him, Dave.

Dave Scott: Well, I was really inspired by him because he was 20 years old and he was such a brilliant runner and, of course, he had this ability to run a 2:10, 2:11 marathon, not on this particular course at the Silverman, but going out there and only taking in a banana before he started wasn't even enough to boost his blood sugar from the night before. And I think as athletes we've got to remember that we're like a metabolic furnace that is burning calories all through the night, so when he got up in the morning and took that banana in that didn't even elevate his blood sugar. Then he had another say six hours before he started running and his first two miles were at 4:20 pace. I mean he was out at, you know, really his 5K pace running a marathon. And ironically they were both uphill too. So, you know, it was just staggering to see his pace. He went through the half at 1:09 and then totally collapsed at the end. We can laugh about it and I was joking with him but, you know, we're going to read about him in future races. And that going out too quickly or going up a hill too fast or trying to beat your neighbor or your competitor, that's suicide. Just as far as pacing, are there any secrets that you have when you're in a race and you know that you're working at x rate, a higher rate, how do you pace yourself or do you talk to yourself or do you just balance yourself off your competitors? I mean what's your barometer of discomfort?

Simon Lessing: Well, I think the barometer is you pretty much- you know, you get yourself ready for a hard race and, you know- I mean a half Ironman distance is- and I always say this, is a very hard distance to race because, you know, it really isn't that far off in terms of the intensity Olympic distance, but it's obviously double the distance. So, you know, it's an extremely hard race to race because it is so intense. You know, without a doubt I think in a race case scenario you are extending yourself all the time and extending yourself, you know, way beyond than what you usually would in training pretty much. And you are bouncing off your opposition because, you know, you're not going to let some guy just ride off up the road if you can hang on. You know, obviously being responsible with regards to pace. I mean I'm not going to try and hang on to…

Dave Scott: Onto me?

Simon Lessing: …Norman Stadler [ph?] or Chris Liada [ph?]. I mean I know that I have an advantage maybe leading into the run on those guys but, you know, if it's somebody who's relatively my ability we kind of feed off each other and, you know, make sure that the pace is pushed all the time. You know, I think that's just- again, that goes with experience and, as I say, I've been doing the sport long enough to know, I know, you know, pretty much how far I can push myself. I'm not going to go and do a full 20 mile suicide run to start off, you know, my half marathon, you know.

Dave Scott: And can you do a 4:20 mile now?

Simon Lessing: Well, I don't know, I should go and try maybe.

Dave Scott: You said your quads were kind of sore from the weekend, so I'm going to get my stopwatch out here in a second.

Simon Lessing: Yes, but I think I could beat Lance Armstrong.

Dave Scott: Well, he's a pretty formidable foe. He probably won't be able to walk for a few more weeks after that sterling marathon he did. But…

Simon Lessing: So, I mean, you know, pacing yourself is one of those things which again it also depends on how much training you've done and how fit you really are. I mean obviously the more training you do and obviously as a seasoned pro, you know, we train to push ourselves. If you're training just three times a week you're obviously not going to be able to go and push yourself to that extent.

Dave Scott: I think it comes back, again, to sort of monitoring your pace, being able to read those signals that you have in training, in your hard training sessions, and making sure that you're providing adequate fuel so that you know you can workout at the highest possible work rate for the longest period of time. Anyway Simon, thanks for joining us today. We've got one more podcast scheduled with Dr. Robert Portman just to cover post-race fueling and I'd like you to join us for this next one. And please go to our website We include a lot of different charts and hopefully helpful information for you. Stay tuned for the next one and we'll see you out on the course.

Announcer: Technical details and reference tables provided by Dave Scott are available at This has been Endurance and Nutrition with Dave Scott. To listen to this podcast and to get further information on subjects presented, go to or To subscribe to an RSS feed, go to

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